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Being Black In A Political Climate

By:  Jasmyne Cannick

Last year may have been the year of gay television, but 2004 has been the year of the Black gay. From the emerging series Noah's Arc, the first gay television series targeting and featuring African Americans to the highly debated issue of gay marriage, long gone are the days of silence around same gender loving persons in the African American community and it's about time. However, we need to shape the context and direction of this discussion in our own community.

Republicans would have Blacks believe that banning gay marriage is more important than social security, education, terrorism, jobs, HIV/AIDS or healthcare. Rev. Gregory Daniels, a Black minister in Chicago made the statement, " If the KKK opposes gay marriage then I'd ride with them." Now what kind of madness is that? Whether or not you agree with allowing gays to get married, Blacks have much more important issues to address than gay marriage. More importantly, what does Rev. Daniels think the KKK will do with him at the end of their ride together?

We cannot allow the right wing to come in, divide and distract our community on this single issue. Black gay and lesbians historically tend to be motivated by the same issues that galvanize and motivate the larger Black voting electorate. If it came down to voting for gay marriage or on an issue that will improve life for the larger Black community, most Black gays are going to vote "Black." Moreover, the question you need to honestly ask yourself is, if gays and lesbians get married, is it really going to affect your life? Because at the end of the day, if you believe gays and lesbians are going hell, then whether or not they get married won't change that. Your church can still uphold the right to marry heterosexual couples only. Allowing gays to marry is not going to change that.

It's important to note that Kerry, while he opposed the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, does not support gay marriage either and I don't think that message has made it to the Black community. Therefore, if you were voting for Bush because of where he stands on gay marriage, you may want to recant that vote and give it to Kerry who will also devote attention and resources to larger issues that affect Blacks.

As the visibility of Black gays and lesbians continues to emerge, African Americans are faced with having to address issues of homophobia and misconstrued ideologies from the pulpit to the kitchen table. It has always baffled me why African Americans act as if there are no gays or lesbians in the Black community. Black gays and lesbians do not live in the same communities as their white counterparts, like most Blacks, they live in areas that are predominately Black. As long as there have been Blacks there have been Black gays and not just the overly effeminate finger snappers. I'm speaking of the Bayard Rustin's, Lorraine Hansberry's, James Baldwin's, Alvin Ailey's, James Cleveland's, Audre Lorde's, and Langston Hughes' to name a few. If I never hear "Gays are all about sex," again it would be too soon. Consider this. If I never have sex again, I am still going to be a Black lesbian. So now what? And you can condemn gays to hell with the Bible all you want but remember that's the same book the white slave master used to justify his mistreatment of our ancestors. Or my favorite argument, "It's unnatural for gays to get married. Men and women were put on Earth to have children." What's your excuse for the heterosexual couple that is not able to have children or choose not to have children? Raising children is a noble undertaking but marriage has never been reserved exclusively for child bearing.

Black gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders are becoming increasingly visible. With record numbers at Black gay pride celebrations around the country, more and more Black gays are claiming their culture and sexual orientation while fighting discrimination in the Black community and racism in the white gay community. Blacks cannot afford to allow the emerging visibility of Black gays, though duly deserved, to affect the overall Black agenda of equality and fairness in our government on November 2. For Blacks to win, we are all going to have to stand together, straight or gay because a vote for Bush is a vote against all Blacks regardless of sexual orientation.

About Jasmyne Cannick

Jasmyne Cannick is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and an activist for African American issues. She lives in Los Angeles and can be reached via www.jasmynecannick.com.

Bio: http://www.jasmynecannick.com/biography.htm 
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Jasmyne Cannick
phone: (323) 839-0216 or (213) 249-0739

Jasmyne Cannick 2004 All rights reserved.